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Saturday, January 24, 2009
Now we've taken a short trip through the overall types of firearms, we have to get a little deeper if we're going to do this right. So in part two we'll cover a bit on actions and ammunition because there's a lot more to a boom stick than a barrel, a trigger and some magical force that makes things go splat.
The action is the mechanism that places the round in the chamber and by pulling the trigger releases the firing pin, which strikes the primer of cartridge, thus igniting the powder which forces the bullet out the barrel. OK got that, simple enough right. So lets do this in the same format as part one.
Also this is a bit of a generalization, as some makes and models may have features that do not completely coincide with the norms I state here, for example the model 1885 Winchester lever action which is a top loading box magazine rifle which shoots various full caliber center fire rifle cartridges does not fit with every +or- I have listed with lever action rifles.
Long Arms, Carbine rifles and Shotguns: Antique and specialty arms aside there are five basic actions: Bolt, Lever, Pump, Semi-automatic/automatic and Break actions. Now there are variations within each category, but we're talking about zombies here, not instructing a full firearms course and even then that's getting a bit too involved, so lets just stick with those for now.
Bolt Action: This is the simplest type of action there is, a round is placed in the receiver/body of the gun either manually or through the magazine, the bolt containing the firing pin is then closed manually cocking the firearm and pushing the cartridge into the chamber to be fired. The bolt is manually opened extracting the spent casing. Now the important stuff, how does this affect your zombie plan?
+ Simplicity: Fewer moving mechanical parts means less room for error and malfunction. With a horde of zombies within the gates, it is not a good time for a gun to pack it in.
+ Tear Down and Maintenance: Hand in hand with simplicity, bolt actions are very simple to take apart and clean or perform other necessary maintenance. Remember a clean firearm is a working firearm. Lets face it society has collapsed, and it could be a long time to get replacement parts.
+ Single shot capability: In many bolt action rifles ammunition can be manually loaded individually directly into the chamber. This may not seem like a big plus, but say you've used all the rounds loaded into your gun and only have a loose pocket or box of them and there's that next zombie coming at you. Not having to manually load a magazine and then chamber a round may be more significant than you might first think.
+ Accuracy: Largely because of their simplicity and fewest moving parts and locking bolt, bolt action rifles are generally considered the most accurate rifles.
- Full Recoil: With the bolt locked in place the full recoil of the rifle firing is coming back at you. If you've got a lot of zombies to shoot that can become quite tiring after a while. Fatigue will affect your shooting accuracy and more misses means more precious ammo wasted.
- Slower rate of fire: Typically bolt actions rifles will be significantly slower to get that next round chambered. A lower rate of fire means the advancing zombies might get through that door or window and into the room and then things start looking grim. I will point out the obvious exception here is the legendary speed of the Lee Enfield action where, German forces advancing during the early days of WWI thought the British had machine guns because of the rate of fire. Standard training requirements were that a British soldier had to be able to fire off a minimum of 15 aimed shots and hit a 200yd target in one minute. With practice one could easily exceed this.
- Left hand awkward: Only commercial sporting arms are manufactured for left hand use. While I know left handed shooters how have gotten quite proficient with right hand bolts, cycling the action manually with each shot to repel a zombie attack would still be limiting. Not an issue if you're right handed obviously.
Lever Action: The classic cowboy rifle, the Winchester lever action is legendary. The first rifle to be manufactured for today's smokeless powders, the Winchester model 1894, or simply 94 (also practically synonymous with the term 30-30 which was created for this gun)has been in production from 1894 to 2006 and the basic design is still in production from other notable manufacturers.
+ Ease of Operation: With a simple downward flick of the wrists another round is chambered and you're ready to knock down another corpse. By utilizing only one simple motion to eject and re-chamber another round and by utilizing gross motor coordination rather than fine motor skills, these are quite possibly the finest choices of manually operated actions.
+ Great ergonomics: Short, light and magnificently well balanced these guns are a dream to shoulder and shoot. Less time thinking and aiming is good when you turn a corner and find yourself face to face with a half dozen living dead.
+ Rapid rate of fire: By the ease of operation, rapid rate of fire is a given, and the less time between shots means less time for the Zombies to advance.
+ Easy reload: the classic loading trap on the side of the receiver works so well it is simple enough to load ammunition into the tube magazine in complete darkness.
+ Left hand friendly: If you're a lefty these are equally easy to shoot and operate, although they typically load on the right.
+\- Interchangeable ammunition: Many lever action rifles are made to use the same ammunition that you would use in a hand gun, which works great for interchangeability, especially between a rifle and a hand gun! Almost an ideal situation if out in no-man's land (at the expense of range and power of course). However the .30-30 and .45-70 ammunition is almost exclusive to these guns without much cross over with many other firearms.
+\- Recoil: While the lever action rifles do have full recoil which can beat on a person especially if using the grand 'ol .45-70 big bores, the classic .30-30 and pistol rounds are quite reasonable with far less felt recoil than the usual center fire bolt action rifles.
-slow reload: simple or not one round must be pushed in manually one behind the other and this is a time consuming process.
- Not single shot friendly: A round must be inserted into the magazine before it can be properly chambered. Although it is possible to top load into the chamber on some models, you will likely face extraction issues.
- Mechanically Complex: While they have been around for over a century and have a record for reliability, there is still a lot more that can go wrong than in a bolt action. Tear down and reassembly in the field is not much of an option here. Not a rifle you want to drop in the sewer.
- Tactical reloads difficult: While I understand it's not so problematic for pistol caliber leverguns, it's near impossible to "top up" the .30-30 or larger caliber rifles as the next round to feed into the chamber blocks the loading trap, thus the rifle must be completely emptied before it can be reloaded.
- short range: Typically Lever action rifles are carbine length and considered brush guns with an effective range not typically exceeding 150 yards.
Pump Action: Typical for the shotgun, but also available for centre fire rifles.
+ Ease of operation: Again a simple hand/arm movement and your ready for the next zombie.
+ left hand friendly: The mechanics work equally well with either hand. (In fact that is the reason this was my first rifle, as I naturally draw to my left)
+\- reload speed: While some models now use removable magazines, many (especially shotguns) must be loaded in a tube magazine one round at a time which can be time consuming.
- Full recoil: Again the full force of the boom is coming back at you. Be careful here as ammunition that is loaded with extra powder can and will cause failures that a bolt action can absorb.
- Mechanically complex: While not as complex as the lever action, they are likely the most prone to experiencing feed problems. Care and cleaning is also more difficult.
- Loss of accuracy: While some will argue with me here it's pretty much commonly accepted that they are less accurate than bolt or lever action rifles at range. Some of that is in the mechanics of the action, some of that is the exaggerated arm movement required to chamber the next round and get the second shot off quickly unsettles the shooter. But the CLACK-CLACK-BOOM sure looks and feels cool.
Break Action: Major limitations here, but some good points I suppose.
+ Accuracy: Break action single shot rifles are likely the most accurate rifles out there, but are few and far between and I don't think I'd want on as my primary firearm in a zombie holocaust.
+ Simplicity: Really it doesn't get any simpler than this does it. Again care and cleaning is simple.
+Single shot capable: Well this is a no brainer (hmm, interesting pun choice...), but the poor reload rate really kind of negates this advantage.
- Reload rate: Many older break actions require the spent shell or cartridge to be removed manually slowing things up even more.
- Reduced capacity: One or two shots tops is not a good thing no matter how you cut it.
- OK really those two negatives really outweigh the previous positives by a pretty wide margin.
Automatic/semi-automatic: let's face it given the choice this is the one that the majority of gun junkies are going to grab. Whether or not that's a good thing remains to be seen, but the concept has proven itself time and again the world over in every major military conflict since the second world war. I have lumped auto and semi-auto together because they are basically the same concept just a minor variation in function.
+ Ease of operation: Load that clip or magazine, chamber the first round and away she goes until it's time to reload. All you have to do is squeeze the trigger and zombies drop.
+ Reduced recoil: The design of the Automatic/semi firearm utilizes gas pressure and recoil to cycle the firearm and in effect reduces the amount of felt recoil. Making it easier for the shooter to regain his sights on the next target quicker, and at the same time be less punishing on the shooter.
+ Reload speed: All semi/auto firearms are fed with a clip or removable magazine making reloading quick and simple.
+\- Rate of fire: Rate of fire in an automatic rifle is frankly a double edged sword. Spray and pray may work well for living opponents, but against the zombie horde, it's a waste of precious ammunition. While the semi-automatic is an infinitely better choice, and truly maxes out zombie plugging potential with rate of fire, the operator must exercise discipline because it too is almost too damn easy just to let fly with a five round burst wasting ammo and achieving nothing but making you reload all that much sooner.
- Complex design: Again a lot more to go wrong here mechanically and harder to maintain in the field. Semi-automatic rifles require a better cleaning regime to ensure they work properly. That said some designs have an uncanny history of working in the most appalling conditions with a mind boggling record, (can you say Kalashnikov).
- no single shot capability: Not as big down fall here as with other designs because of the quick reload.
- Ammunition related failures: Because this design utilizes the gas pressures of a discharging cartridge to cycle the action, another factor of ammunition tolerances becomes an issue not found in other manually operated actions. While this may not be an issue with plenty of good ammo and reloading supplies available on the market, come Z day that may change. Poor quality or "dirty" ammo will foul the rifle much quicker rendering the rifle useless if gas ports are clogged. Particularly poor quality ammo has been known to cause this to happen within the first dozen rounds fired. A gun that doesn't fire is a club at best, and it's hard to club yourself to death if that's what it comes down to.
Handguns: Again antique and specialty arms aside there are two basic actions, the revolver and the automatic pistol (automatic here does not mean continuous fire, simply auto loading).
Revolvers: Revolvers come in two styles, the single action revolver and the double action revolver. Single actions are quite primitive antique or antique clone guns which require the hammer be cocked manually (simultaneously rotating the cylinder) and the trigger simply releases the hammer. Great for Westerns and cowboy action shooting, but a bit ponderous with the walking dead coming at you at close range. With the double action revolver squeezing the trigger performs both actions in order.
+ Simplicity: Again fewer parts mean potentially fewer problems. Also cleaning and maintenance is simple.
- Slow reload rate: While some makes had design components that made reloading quicker and easier, it is still a relatively slow process, and when zombies are within handgun range, every second counts.
- low capacity: While 8 round revolvers aren't uncommon, most anything in a calibre most suitable such as the .45 are going to be the classic six shooter. And reloading often with a slow reload rate, well lets just say you should remember to count how many shots you've fired, because you'll likely be wanting to save one for yourself.
Automatic pistols: Not new technology, the automatic pistol was widely in uses as early as 1911 and operates much the same as the self loading rifles. Again available in single and double action. Single action automatics, like the self loading rifles, load, cock and blast away until empty. The double action automatic simply eliminates the requirement to initially cock the weapon.
+ Rate of fire: Although the Double action automatic has a slight advantage it is really rather negligible, as going int a dangerous situation one would likely have the weapon cocked and ready to fore anyway. With either style getting that second shot off in a hurry is of major importance at this close range.
+ Large magazine capacity: An automatic pistol with a 9-15 round magazine is the norm, and the more shots in the gun means a better chance of getting out of there unscathed.
+ Quick reload rate. Automatic pistols are quickest of all firearms to reload. This is a huge plus.
- Complex design: More maintenance is required to keep them working properly and cleaning is more labour intensive. But with smaller pistol rounds the good news is they're less likely to be as dramatically affected by dirty ammo than a rifle.
Quickly on ammunition, as really there a a whole multitude of ammunition choices available. The bigger is not always better. I mean come on you're taking out rotting corpses not Wildebeast. A well placed .22 will likely do the trick, but it's best if you give yourself a bit of wiggle room, utterly destroying the Zombies brain is a better plan than simply putting a hole through it, so select calibers that will do that whenever possible. Hand guns I would recommend no smaller than .38 or a 9mm if you cannot handle the recoil and your accuracy suffers, but a .40 or .45 would be more effective if you can shoot it well. For rifle rounds I would recommend anything that is legal for big game hunting (specifically deer or other thin skinned game). .30cal is a great choice as there are more .30cal variations available than any other, which means lots of available reloading supplies regardless of what specific round you choose.
Some military rounds are better choices than others. The NATO 7.62X51 round is great if you have access to active military supplies, but there's not much of it on the civilian surplus market anymore. The British .303 has effectively gone extinct as far as surplus ammunition goes (and that which is out there is crap to my understanding), but is readily available as a commercial sporting round. Russian 7.62x31 surplus on the other hand is quite plentiful and inexpensive if you're stocking up. But keep in mind it will all but impossible to find while scavenging as commercial hunting ammunition.
Shotguns are popular Zombie busting fare, but as I had mentioned previously shot size is far more than gauge. Stick with buck shot of at least #4 and avoid small game loads as they will do nothing to stop all but the mushiest brain muncher.
Friday, January 23, 2009
In light of the other day's inaugural events in Washington, and with no less than four years of Barack Obama as the US President perhaps it's a good time to more deeply assess you Zombie Plan. What does Obama have to do with this? Well for the sake of this post, not much at all aside from being a lock on getting more web crawler hits. Later on however I look forward to addressing the question of "How does Barack Obama as US President effect my Zombie plan" more earnestly.
Thanks Shane, for stopping by the banks to discuss Zombie planing the other day. Shane brings up some good thoughts on assembling your most important line of defense, your firearms. (Check out his comments on the Public Service Announcement). In my earlier post I stated my choice of firearm and briefly addressed some of it's merits. In this post lets take a closer look at firearm selection: some of the considerations you should keep in mind when selecting a firearm and some of the choices of firearms available to you.
Considerations in firearm selection:
A firearm is practically indispensable in assuring your survival during a Zombie breakout. Any firearm is better than none, some however have specific features that make them more or less suitable than others. Lets start off with four main classifications of Firearms, Long arms (rifles), Carbines (short rifles), Shotguns, and Handguns. Ideally one should consider at least one of each of these as each addresses a specific situation you may encounter more effectively than another.
Long Arms: In my opinion the most indispensable category of firearm, and are your primary means of defense when engagement is inevitable. Here are the positives and negatives of this type of arm.
+ Power: Center fire rifles are, for the most part, designed to drop large game animals (and in military arms, humans). The kinetic energy stored in a 180 grain projectile traveling at speeds often in excess of 2500 ft. per second is huge and will easily obliterate any zombie melon that gets in it's path, even if just partially.
+ Accuracy: Rifles are unquestionably the most accurate of firearms, the ability to dispatch a zombie from more than a football field away should not be understated. We have all seen where one lone zombie becomes attracted to movement or some other stimulus and mindlessly attempts to reach the individual attracting the attention of numerous other zombies. By dispatching that zombie at a much greater distance and ideally before it becomes aware of you will naturally equate to fewer zombies being attracted to your location hopefully avoiding mob type situations.
+ Availability: Hunting and sporting rifles are the most easily acquired class of firearm. Even in countries that require licensing, they are by far the easiest to acquire with the least amount of effort and expense. Naturally finding ammunition for this class of firearm is also quite easy (with some exceptions).
- Size: Naturally a longer firearm is also more difficult to utilize in confined spaces or in close quarters. While they are the best choice for use from an easily defensible position, they are limited in usefulness when forced to leave your primary safe house, for say scavenging activities or find your self in close quarter combat.
- Typically small magazine capacity: Most sporting rifles do not have a magazine capacity beyond 5 or 6 rounds. Even military rifles typically operate in these ranges. The Lee Enfield rifles which had a 10 round magazine are the primary exception, followed by the M1 Garand which held 8 rounds.
-Slow reload rate: Commercial sporting rifles are not manufactured with the idea of fast reloading being a priority and can be quite cumbersome depending on model. Again former military rifles; where they may lose out on accuracy, they are/were manufactured to accommodate more rapid reloading means with stripper clips or removable/replaceable magazines and other systems.
Carbine Rifles: Quite possibly the best all-round choice in firearm. Certainly should be considered a must if wandering or scavenging. Carbine rifles were a military creation for the sole purpose that long arms were a bit unwieldy, and they remain primarily a military arm.
+ Power: Many carbine rifles use the same cartridges as the full calibre long rifles. Some however are manufactured to use special rounds which are somewhere between a pistol round and a rifle round, like the M1 carbine. While in itself a nice gun, the unique cartridge also makes it a dubious choice for scavenging.
+ Size: Notably shorter than the full size rifle, carbines are far better suited for use in more restricted confines. Modern Military carbine rifles have practically perfected this union of rifle calibre bullet and close confines maneuverability.
+ Fast Reload rate: Being again of military design, they are made to be reloaded in a hurry. An indispensable feature in any firearm.
+/- Magazine Capacity: Military models if you can get your hands on one are the best choice as they carry the most number of round of ammunition. Civilian models however (which most of us only have access too) seldom have magazine capacities (especially here in Canada) of more than 5 rounds, thus making multiple magazines a necessity.
+/- Accuracy: While reasonably accurate at moderate ranges, and far surpassing hand guns, they are by no means as accurate as full size rifles at range. Generally carbines which utilize full calibre ammunition tend to suffer more in accuracy.
- Availability: Naturally being a military arm, even though civilian models are available on the market, they are not nearly as available as full size sporting rifles, and due to their reduced size and design may face further restrictions in some regions. As well availability of ammunition will be considerably more reduced than for many models of long rifle.
Shotguns: The most highly over rated Zombie fighting tool I can think of. While some features of a shotgun may seem appealing and they've been used widely in Film and Television, they're really not on par with the other firearms. Now as I have said before any firearm is better than none, so by all means keep one in your locker if you already have one, but specifically acquiring for your zombie plan is money better spent elsewhere. Shotguns are best for repelling looters and living invaders, temporarily anyway, as a dead looter will be trying to gnaw on your leg in an hour.
+/- Less Accuracy required: The whole intent of a shotgun is to spread projectiles over a wide area to increase the odds of hitting a difficult target. Sounds great just point at the zombie pull the trigger and watch his head blow apart. The negative here is that if you spread your shot too thin none of it's going to do anything. Again with the kinetic energy, even .32" diameter 00 buckshot fired from a shotgun traveling at sub sonic speeds will have only a fraction of the kinetic energy of a centre fire rifle bullet, thus you'd need to compound this effect with as much of the shot impacting the target as possible. There are multiples factors with a shotgun that effect this; Range, Choke and Shot selection being the keys.
+/- Size: Tactical shotguns like Carbine rifles are designed for close quartered combat and matched with an appropriate shot selection could be useful as a last minute line of short range defense. Sporting shotguns on the other hand are really no shorter than long rifles, and "sawing off" a shot gun really make it far less effective that you would think, reducing effective range, increasing the spread dramatically, making the recoil almost uncontrollable and becoming more of a danger to you and your still living companions and than means of protection.
- numerous acceptable shells: Unlike rifles that will accept one size cartridge shotguns can chamber different dimensions of shells. While typically not as catastrophic as loading the wrong ammunition in a rifle (shells of the same gauge come in a variety of lengths) a 20ga shell can drop into the barrel of a 12ga shotgun and become extremely dangerous if a 12ga round is fired off behind it. A shorter shell of appropriate gauge is acceptable, a longer shell will damage the gun. Figuring out which is which in the dark with a zombie horde at the door is not a good situation. I'll touch on this a bit more later too.
- Power: Most ammunition is practically useless. Along with a variety of shell sizes there are numerous different shot sizes (shot is the projectiles in the shell if you didn't get that already), most of which are designed for small game and birds. Only the larger buck shot would have any effectiveness against zombies. Keep in mind Dick Cheney shot an elderly hunting companion in the face at point blank range with bird shot and he survived. So what good would this be on a zombie?
- incompatible combinations: Sporting shot guns come in a variety of chokes to effect the resulting shot pattern at different ranges, however they will still chamber inappropriate shells. Trying to shoot #1 gauge buck shot through a full choke shotgun would be disastrous.
- poor reload rate: With the exception of a few of the newest tactical shotguns which use removable magazines, the vast majority are not capable of being reloaded very quickly as they must be loaded one shell at a time.
- low magazine capacity: Sporting shotguns camber 2, 3 or 5 cartridges at most (three being the legal limit internationally for migratory bird hunting). Some modern tactical shot guns however can hold as many as 6 to 10 rounds.
* As you can see the best choices here are clearly modern tactical shotguns, but again keep in mind scavenging suitable ammunition will be more difficult.
Hand Guns: When it comes down to it and zombies are coming through the window, or while crawling through very confined spaces while out scavenging, or any other situation where using two hands on your firearm is not possible a good hand gun is your best and possibly last line of defense.
+ Size: Well lets face it it's really the one feature that makes a handgun valuable.
+ Power: Really at close range even the .38 round will be effective enough, but I do concur with Shane that a .40 or .45 is a better choice. After all a bigger boom means less chance of needing to take a second shot. Pistol rounds are not nearly as powerful as rifle rounds, but they will certainly do the job.
+ Magazine Capacity: Semi-automatic pistols are nothing new dating back to the first decade of the 20th century. So while revolvers are still available their limitations in regards to capacity and reload rate are obvious. For that reason I'm not really going to bother with them here. Clip fed Semi -automatic pistols typically hold 12-15 rounds of ammunition and in some cases more. And when your in a close quarters situation multiple zombies are very likely. The more ammunition in your firearm means the less time you have to spend reloading and the greater your chances of getting out alive.
+ Reload rate: Magazine fed pistols can be reloaded very quickly, more quickly than most any type of rifle of shotgun.
- Accuracy: With short barrels and reduced sub-sonic loads, pistols do not have good accuracy at anything but close range combat.
-Availability: Hand guns are the most restricted of firearms requiring the most time and effort to acquire legally.
So there is a primer on firearm selection in part 2 we will look at and discuss some other aspects of firearm selection, such as action type and ammunition. Please feel free to chime in and discuss your views of firearm selection for your zombie plan.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
I've been assigned the task of reading Stephenie Meyer's Breaking Dawn basically to ensure it is suitable for a 12 year old girl. Now in my life I seem to have too little time to accomplish as much reading as I would like, and am forced to put aside H.P. Lovecraft to get this task done. Now any Vampire story that has received such positive reviews as this series I'm sure will be good, but I must admit I'm quietly hoping it will surprise me and I will actually grab my attention, as Vampires or not I'm skeptical about a teenage romance novel entertaining me. So be sure I'll post my thoughts on this book, but in the meantime I would really enjoy hearing your thoughts and impressions and then maybe I can get back to my blog and my sorely neglected as of late "theFrankensteinMonster.com" as well as Lovecraft's The Shunned House.